Romanée-Conti – 2018

Update 9.2.2021(2.1.2020)billn

Perrine Fenal & Bertrand de Villaine, 2019Tasted in Vosne-Romanée with Perrine Fenal & Bertrand de Villaine, 02 December, 2019.

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
1 Place de l’Église
21700 Vosne-Romanée
More reports for Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

It was a pleasure to meet this time with Perrine Fenal who seems to be taking a more (visibly) active role at the domaine than Henry-Frédéric Roch did – just my perception – but she clearly understands the wines very well. Her and Bertrand together seemed a very good team.

I had the impression that the domaine is becoming more ‘open’ in the way it hosts visitors than was once the case; today, although tasting 2018s, you walk through barrels of 2019s such as their first Corton-Charlemagne and their ‘in-house’ Bâtard-Montrachet – and but not just that – here, also are half a dozen barrels of the domaine’s Vosne 1er Petits Monts – things previously ‘hidden’ from the casual visitor.

Bertrand on 2018:
We began our harvest on the 31 August in 2018 versus the 04 September in 2017. We had an attack of mildew in the bottom of La Tâche in 2018, it’s the first big attack of something since we were hit by botrytis in 2008. There was more protein in the white in 2018, and we had some malos underway before the wine had even descended into barrel. In some limited areas, we even had to make some modest green harvests in 2018. Because of the high sugars in 2018, some of the wines finished fermenting those sugars in barrel.

“So 2018 was complicated, chaotic even, as the vines grew so quickly, then the grapes with so much sugar that some malos finished before the sugars, some sugars finished in barrels so we were ready for the same in 2019, but practically everything went completely normally. But overall, 2018 is a vintage that’s similar to 2017 in terms of grape maturity and production volume. I think there’s some degree of concentration in the grapes rather than overt maturity.

The wines…

Aromatically, I have never met more impressive wines at the domaine – and I’ve tasted each new vintage since 2000 – simply off the dial. For the second vintage in a row, I find the GE really ‘Grand!’ People often speak of the ‘Vosne-spice’ but across the range of Vosnes, the intensity was simply incredible. Great wines all in 2018. For many years I never knew whether the La Tâche or the Romanée-Conti would be the star of the tasting, Aubert often confiding that sometimes LT was more interesting young, but never after 20 years. But recent years have consistently been an easy win for the Romanée-Conti, until today. If wine was a time-capsule you would save money and only buy LT on this showing – but that’s unfair because the RC was the only wine to have been racked before the tasting – so we were comparing apples with pears.

The single greatest tasting of 2018s that I made. I’ve never said that in any vintage before, even in these hallowed cellars!

As noted last year, the cuvée Divault-Blochet hasn’t been seen since 2011 – either due to climate issues, or simply that the maturity has been so homogenous that there has been no need to make separate cuvées – there have simply been more grapes for the grand vin. But as noted in this report, the young vines of RSV are not yet incorporated into the ‘grand vin’ and then there’s the Petits Monts too, so who knows in 2018…(?)

2018 Corton
‘Initially we found it hard to marry the tannins with the oak so went from 100% new oak in 2009 to 50% in 2010. Now it’s back to 100% following the work in the vines and the maturity in the grapes – they are now happy together. But we want to make a Corton, not a Corton from Vosne.’
A vibrant nose of roses. This is lovely in the mouth – so fine, so perfumed. There is good energy but here is also an uncommon elegance for Corton – wow!
2018 Echézeaux
‘The soil here is less deep than many of the other crus’
More width, spiced, and even a little more aromatic impact too. Lots of volume in the mouth, with more impression of structure too. Wow depth to this rose-inflected fruit – spiced finishing. Über-delicious wine.
2018 Grands-Echézeaux
Wide, vibrant, spiced, almost a pyrazine-inflection to the rose-petal perfume. Ooh, more direct, depth of flavour still, growing with vibrancy. Beautiful, more haunting purity of fruit in the finish. That’s easily great! Captivating wine!
2018 Romanée St.Vivant
One part replanted in 2010 is not yet incorporated, but maybe soon…
Wow – a big waft of spice – so impressive. Here is a wider, more texturally structural wine. Mouth-watering, hyper-complex, herbed, gorgeously flavoured, but I might rather take the style and shape of the GE this year. Certainly at this stage, yet here is also great wine in the making.
2018 Richebourg
For years I found the domaine’s Richebourg to be the least accessible of all their wines – but recently that’s not the case.
A waft of aroma that recalls the RSV but here with more mineral precision included – super definition – 8K! Driving like the GE but with more width, this is dynamic wine, it is electric wine, it is a great wine in 2018.
2018 La Tâche
With a suggestion of pyrazine, this nose most closely resembles a blend of the GE and the RSV combined – but growing almost impossibly in volume. How is that possible? This has such an extra depth of flavour – how does that come from the grape? Next level RSV in style – wow – one of the greatest wines I ever tased young at the domaine!
2018 Romanée-Conti
Really wide, spiced, a certain purity still, no pyrazine impression. A faint touch of gas and more mineral in style, this has a little more direction than LT, a certain additional clarity too, great wine but less demonstrative than LT this year – the first time for a few years at this stage – but this wine was racked one week ago, the others not yet. The finish is long, spiced, herbed and, yes, haunting…

Reviving an old custom at the domaine, a couple of blind wines:

1996 Richebourg
Lots of maturity on the nose some age from the colour too. The nose is spiced, some sous bois maturity is obvious. Ooh, vibrant, really complex but quite some age too – growing, growing, still further in the mouth. Plenty of structure here and a faint dryness of tannin. It turns out to be Richebourg 96 but with fine balance, never for a moment did I see the acidity as an indicator, I guessed 1995 because of the lick of tannin, but had no idea for the cru. The nose becoming finer and finer in the glass…

2014 Bâtard-Montrachet
Of-course, this is the non-commercial cuvée of the domaine as they have only 2 barrels worth (usually). It’s for family and team celebrations says Bertrand ‘and we are a big family so we definitely don’t have too much!’
Now for something white. Clearly much younger; a little aromatic toast that departs the scene to reveal a more floral personality – more sweetness coming too. Ooh – thats a nice blend of energy and depth of flavour, really wide and deep. Great finish! Growing still wider with a touch of minerality. Batard 2014 and it’s great…

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